What kind of environment has your kitchen become for your family? Do you ever watch those charming old-time family movies and find yourself envious of the warm and welcoming gathering place the kitchen always is? In today’s busy world with the kids running in one door and out the other from soccer to ballet and with you juggling the attempt to create healthy sit-down meals with an obviously painfully limited amount of time, more often than not, kids are growing up without that connection to the kitchen or to the basis of food preparation.
This can be problematic for many reasons. Number one, there’s a lot of bonding and family camaraderie that can occur when everyone is together in the kitchen, and it’s a huge loss to miss out on that. It’s a place where the entire family can come together, pool their efforts, and create something that everyone can partake in and enjoy – and it doesn’t involve crashing on a couch and zoning out from everyone else.
Secondly, it’s extremely important that children realize where there food came from. When kids are fed a diet of pre-packaged, pre-made foods, that connection and appreciation for food is easily lost. The idea of “healthy” becomes obscure as the options become limited to what’s available in a 2-minute time-span, whether that’s a pop-tart or a frozen pizza.
And the last for this article, although certainly not the last reason in general: kids miss out on the responsibility that can be learned from within the kitchen. Chores that children are easily capable of performing like setting the table, washing fruits and veggies, loading the dishwasher, etc. are excellent tools for teaching teamwork. Chores and tasks also instill accountability: ie: if this isn’t done, then the entire family will miss out.
Ready to transform your kitchen from that vacant room to the new center in your home where family efforts are pooled, the camaraderie is built up and your children enjoy meeting to spend time together? Try some of these simple ideas to get yourself started!
1) Allow your children to plan the menu. Decision making makes anyone feel important and much more willing to contribute time and effort. You can rotate: Monday is Joanna’s turn, Wednesday is Michael’s decision.
2) Make every aspect as fun as possible. You have to make the kitchen beat out things like the Wii or the latest Nickelodeon show. This means you’ve gotta get creative! If you’re making breakfast for dinner, then let the kids pour the batter into goofy shapes. Sing songs about the vegetables you’re peeling. Dye foods fun and wacky colors. Set a timer and start a nightly competition about who can unload the dishwasher the fastest. Have themed dinners.
3) Dinner time is story time. Kids love to talk. If you promise them that after the “work” is done, that they will get their own allotted time, with no disruptions, to tell you about their day, they’ll likely to be willing to do almost anything for your undivided attention.
4) Make healthy delicious. If your children haven’t realized how good healthy snacks and meals can be, start teaching them with every part of the meal why you’re putting zucchini in the spaghetti sauce, why their banana bread is made with whole wheat flour. Kids are sponges. They love new information, and if you can teach them something and then deliver an awesome meal, dish, etc., they’re going to remember it and chances are good they’ll ask to repeat it, maybe even help!
5) Show your thankfulness. Never let any task, any offer to help, any completed project go unnoticed. Show your appreciation, and then tell them why it helped so much, why it makes you so happy to see them contributing.
Start today: set aside half an hour to meet with your kids and create something healthy and enjoyable for dinner – with their help. Turn on some favorite tunes, get your children excited, and have some fun!
Author Tara Alley is a freelance writer dedicated to writing about living and eating healthier. She currently writes alongside Coffee Home Direct and researches fair trade green coffee.